During this period between February – June 09 I was getting other signals that Mary might not be the best person for me to be working with. I do want to say this, she did a good job up to a certain point and I learned a lot from her. All of these signals came along with other things that were positive. She introduced me to boutique owners, sales managers, buyers, public relations people, sales reps and department store buyers, etc.. which is exactly what she was hired to do. Many times when she would introduce me to someone they were very complimentary of Mary and her work, they also were very helpful to me. There were times that I clearly knew that things weren’t kosher but, I weighed things out and decided that maybe sometimes you take the good with the bad.
One thing that started off just being annoying but later turned out to become a real problem was that she was late, consistently. I would meet her at her home office and she would be anywhere between 10 minutes to 30 minutes late, sometimes longer. I have always had a problem being late myself, no matter how I try I am almost always running about 5 minutes behind. At the beginning I didn’t think much of this, she would generally call and say she was running 5 minutes behind but often would get there 15 minutes or so later.
Like I said this was annoying, she would always arrive in grandiose fashion with some story about why she was late. (grandiosity..more pebbles) At first I didn’t say anything and went about our meetings, so if we were supposed to meet for an hour at 4:00 but we actually got started at 4:30 I would note the start time in my notes and continue with the meeting until 5:30.
Then one day, after only getting through thirty minutes of an hour meeting she indicated that she had another appointment and needed to leave. My agenda for the meeting wasn’t complete so I let her know that we could make it up in the next meeting. Imagine my surprise at the end of the month when I received an invoice that charged me for the hour appointment that was only 30 minutes. I called her and she corrected the invoice, at this point I started tracking very carefully the time we spent on the phone and in meetings.
The next time came when she had done some work for me that I wasn’t present for, it seemed to me that the invoice had been padded. When I asked she showed me her proof and documentation and although I felt uneasy I paid it because I couldn’t really prove otherwise. (pay attention when you feel uneasy, there’s a reason)
Another thing I started to notice was that she was always buying me gifts, for example one day I met her for a lunch meeting and she presented me with a Mother’s Day gift. At the time it caught me off guard and I felt empty-handed although I usually don’t get Mother’s Day gifts for anyone except my Mother and Mother in Law. I started to notice that she would throw me a little off kilter like that and then within a day or so of these gifts I would get a questionable invoice. I didn’t pick up on the gift thing at the start but looking back it was definitely a pattern. In hindsight I think that the gifts were little ways for her to assuage her guilt over being dishonest and taking advantage.
Another pattern I didn’t notice right away, but now clearly see was that, from the beginning she found ways of making me feel insecure. Not only because she knew so much more about the shoe business than I did but, in other ways. For example, I had gained about 15 pounds in the first two years of quitting smoking and for someone who is five foot one inch, 15 pounds is quite noticeable. More to the point was that I was not comfortable in my skin. She was nearly six feet tall and very thin so I often felt big and frumpy around her, one day I mentioned, while we were talking about ad campaigns, that I didn’t want to be the face of my company because I didn’t feel good about my weight. Her comment was something to the effect of “You should still be in your ads because being overweight more people will relate to you, often times models aren’t relatable so this could be a good thing.” I didn’t know what to say to that, I never do well with people who are that honest, although I am honest I always attempt to be kind rather than say something like that.
During this time she was going through surgeries for her skin cancer, I saw the scars and stitches and it seemed every time she turned around they were finding more malignancies. There is the part of me that I am not at all embarrassed to say even now, I felt for her and what she was going through. I think that the way I felt about her cancer is one of the reasons I let more things slide than I would normally. Although I let her get away with much more than I should have, I will not let anyone change the part of me that cares about people and feels compassion for them, regardless of their other faults. I made this conscious decision long ago, I have to live with myself and how I treat people, we all do, this one decision brings me peace of mind.